Blink’s earlier adventures:
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4
Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1
Captain Heroic glanced up at the rearview mirror and saw Stevie watching. “That was the first line of passive defense,” he said. “There’s also a fence that runs around the grounds, but you can’t see it from the road. Here’s the blowout strip.” They drove over what looked like a narrow drain grate running across the pavement. Brush and rocks lined both sides of the road, making the whole thing feel closed in. “Active defenses come next. Fortunately, we’re expected, so you won’t see those in action.”
“Active?” Stevie unbuckled his seatbelt and joined Skyscraper City’s first and oldest superhero up front.
“Yeah. Passive defenses are there to slow you down or block your way. Keeps honest people honest, you might say. The active defenses are laser blinders, dazzlers, sonic squealers. Fair warning kind of stuff. If you’re not invited and get past those, then the deadly force kicks in. Mines, guns, that kind of thing.”
“Has it ever been used?”
“Oh, nah. Professor Zero likes to say the best deterrent is one that never has to be used. There’s cameras all along the way as well, on the road and on either side. I’m told some of the local high school kids think the spot in front of the trees is a great place to make out. If they knew there was video… well, it’s reviewed and archived. Every once in a while, one of those kids grows up to be a politician, you know.” The Captain grinned. “So don’t bring your girlfriend down here.”
“Yeah.” Like that’s ever gonna happen, Stevie thought.
The road curved off to the left, but the Heromobile rolled on across the dirt, straight toward a huge rock. “Uh…” Stevie warned, then threw his hands onto the dashboard, bracing for impact.
Captain Heroic laughed, and the Heromobile went through the rock. Lights flared on in front of them, guiding them down a tunnel. “That was a hologram. The road goes to that building you’ve seen on TV,” he explained. “We call it the conference center. It’s a facade, and the only part of the operation the public ever sees. We have press briefings and meetings with local and national authorities there, is all. And the tours, of course. The real work all happens inside this little mountain.”
“Wow.” Stevie stole a glance behind him. The other passengers were totally wrapped up in their own worlds, missing out on all this. Maybe they had seen it before. Ms. Ma probably had, anyway. Well, okay, a tunnel wasn’t all that exciting, but seeing all this in person and getting explanations was way better than just looking around after the fact and seeing you had arrived.
A light flashed up ahead, and Captain Heroic slowed down. The Heromobile emerged into what looked like a tiny city parking garage. Most of the slots were occupied by golf carts, but a few slots were open and Captain Heroic parked in one. “Here we are,” he said over his shoulder. “Your escorts should be here by the time you grab your stuff.” He gave Stevie a lopsided smile. “I’m your escort. Since we’ve already worked together on one job, the Professor figured that you’d be more comfortable with someone you know.”
Ma Ling had already opened the side door and shouldered her bag; Stevie’s mom had bigger purses than that. Sarika put her iPad in a case, then skipped around to the back of the van. She hoisted a backpack nearly as big as herself onto her shoulders with a grunt. “Okay, I’m ready,” she said, leaning forward for balance. She’s a lot stronger than she looks, Stevie thought, with some admiration.
Stevie waited for Ms. Ling to exit, then slid his pack out from under the seat. It contained mostly clothes, and a couple of books in case they didn’t have the ones he was reading. He gave Captain Heroic a nod, then looked at the approaching escorts. Ma Ling’s escort was some dude in a rentacop outfit, but he did a double-take at the young girl sent for Sarika. Nowhere near as gorgeous as Sarika, but there weren’t any girls in his school who were. Still, what were the chances of two girls around his age being here? The other girl in turn gave him a puzzled scowl, then led Sarika to a golf cart and drove off.
“This one,” said Captain Heroic, and Stevie shook himself. He tossed his bag in the back of the golf cart and took the shotgun seat. “Welcome to Zero Point, by the way. Ever thought you’d get a chance to see this?”
“I hoped I’d get to take the tour some day,” Stevie replied. “I guess that’s a big fake-out, though.”
Captain Heroic laughed. “You’re handling this better than some rookies do, so far. And all of them were a lot older than you.”
“Cool. Who was Sarika’s escort?”
“Oh, Nixi?” He pronounced it Nikki. “She’s Professor Zero’s niece. She’s some kind of wizard with computers, so I guess you could say this is a summer job for her. Maybe they sent her so Sarika would have an escort she can relate to.”
“Why are they here? Ms. Ma and Sarika, I mean.”
“Truth be told, I don’t know. You’ll find out pretty quickly, this is a huge operation. I’m not sure even the Professor knows what all goes on here in his own name, even if he gives the whole thing some general direction. It’s like a big corporation, or a government outfit—you’ll find out there’s not much difference, sooner or later—everyone’s working on a different piece of the pie, and it all comes together. Somehow.” Captain Heroic stole a glance at his young passenger. “By the way, I figured you’d be asking me a lot more about Sarika.”
Stevie blushed. “She’s okay. More than okay. I—I don’t know, really.” He had this idea that Sarika’s parents had already arranged a marriage to some guy she had never met, but it was a dumb racist jerk thing to think. He didn’t think he was racist—Lashaun was his best friend, after all—and it embarrassed him to have such a thought.
“Yeah, just remember we’re not here to find you a girlfriend. This is work, even if it isn’t the kind of job you’d expect. In some ways, it’ll be worse than a job. They’re going to get personal with you, and I mean seriously personal. We all have weaknesses, and they’re going to pry into your brain to figure out what yours is. If you know what your weak spots are, you can work on them. By the time you go home, Professor Zero will know more about you than your mother does.”
“Ha. She doesn’t know about the Blink thing, to begin with.”
“Yeah. That’s one of the things that has the Professor worried. He wants to figure out why you manifested so early, and how it’s going to affect you. It’s an awfully big secret to be keeping from your parents.”
“If he has any ideas,” said Stevie, “I’m all ears.”
“Chances are, he’ll recommend you lie low until you get out on your own. No missions, no patrols, just be yourself until you can be Blink without a mom to worry about.” He pulled the cart to a stop. “Well, here we are.”
Stevie just stared at the man standing in front of the cart. Long brown hair, streaked with gray and pulled back in a tail, round wireframe glasses, unruly beard—a face he had seen on TV many times, but now he was seeing Professor Zero for real.